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Italy Country Information

Italy is the land of sapori(taste) and saperi(knowledge). This is truly the land that engages all the traveler's senses. Whether you are a history buff, a wine connoisseur, an amateur chef, enthralled by the arts, captured by fashion, a beach bum, a dewy eyed romantic or a combination of the above, be prepare to be dazzled by this country that is overflowing with choices galore.

And the choices are enchanting. Italy's cities are living museums with their perfectly preserved monuments and beautifully proportioned squares; their museums a veritable feast for your eyes where you can devour the works of Raffaello, Michelangelo, Tiziano, Caravaggio, Botticelli and Tintoretto among others, their operas ringing with the works of Verdi and Puccini; the landscape littered with two thirds of UNESCO's world heritage sites that include rock drawings in Valcamonica, the Dolomites, the entire Amalfi Coast, the famed Villa d'Este in Tivoli, the Baroque towns of Sicily and the mosaics of Ravenna, among myriad others; and finally, their ristoranti, pizzeria and trattoria offer gastronomical delights that range from aromatic espressos, frothy cappuccinos to a range of antipasto (starters), traditional slices of pizza and sinful dolce (desserts) or gelato (ice-cream) while their vineyards pour out heady glasses of Chianti, Marsala, Muscato and for the brave worshipper of Bacchus, Grappa!

During your tour, you will experience the very heart of Italy. Choose from the various cultural capitals of the country, each with its unique blend of art, history and particular destiny. Whether it is absorbing the amazing art of Renaissance Florencia, detangling 2800 years of history of the World Heritage Site of Napoli, walking through the Eternal City of Roma, sampling the famed ham and cheese of Parma, being serenaded by the gondoliers of Venezia, journeying to the cliff-hugging villages of the Cinque Terre, walking the pedestrian-friendly streets of Lucca, embracing the hill town ambiance of Tuscany, or soaking some sun on the celebrity-rich island of Capri, your tour will be crafted with a finesse that will allow you to enjoy Italy's most distinctive arts, wines and cuisine.

History & Culture

The "Risorgimento" Italian unity was achieved in an intense and dramatic struggle, known as the Risorgimento (Revival), between 1848 and 1870 under the House of Savoy and was essentially the conquest of the Italian peninsula by the Kingdom of Sardinia in the north ruled by the Savoy dynasty from Turin. The first part of this process ended in 1861 with the declaration of the Kingdom of Italy, comprising the northern provinces, Sicily, Sardinia and the south. Mazzini, Garibaldi and Cavour were the epic figures who led the unification of Italy, which was completed in 1871 when the King of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II (formerly the King of Piedmont and Sardinia), entered Rome, the capital of the Papal States, expelled the French troops defending papal authority and declared it the capital of Italy. The conquest of the Papal States ended the temporal power of the papacy. However, the Church refused to recognise the new state and excommunicated its monarch, the Pope remaining confined within the small enclave of the Vatican. The "Roman Question", or the territorial status of Rome, and the question of Church/state relations were not settled until 1929 when the Lateran Pact was concluded between the Vatican and Mussolini.

Recent History
The General Election of 13 May 2001 was won by Silvio Berlusconi and his centre-right House of Liberties coalition. It became the longest serving post-war Italian government and the only one to survive the five-year legislative period.

The General Election of 9/10 April 2006 was won by Romano Prodi and his centre-left 'Unione' coalition, with a majority of 67 seats in the Chamber of Deputies but only a 2 seat majority in the Senate. The majority in the Senate had been reduced to zero by the time Prodi lost a vote of confidence in the Senate in January 2008. New General elections were scheduled for 13/14 April.

The Italian political landscape underwent a seismic shift in the 1990s when the "Clean Hands" operation exposed corruption at the highest levels of politics and big business. Several former prime ministers were implicated and thousands of businessmen and politicians were investigated.

Italy was one of the six countries which signed the 1951 Paris Treaty setting Europe off on the path to integration. It has been staunchly at the heart of Europe ever since, although in the early 2000s the government of Silvio Berlusconi adopted a more Eurosceptic stance.

Mr Berlusconi sought to align Italy more closely to the US, breaking ranks with the country's traditional allies, France and Germany, in his support for the US-led campaign in Iraq.

The Europhile Romano Prodi, who was prime minister from 2006 to 2008, pulled the Italian troops out of Iraq and set about restoring good relations with other EU member states.

Italy is the fourth largest European economy and for long enjoyed one of the highest per capita incomes in Europe, despite the decline in traditional industries such as textiles and car manufacturing as a result of globalisation.

But it became one of the first eurozone victims of the global financial crisis of 2008. By the autumn, the economy was declared to have fallen into its fourth recession in less than a decade.

There is concern over Italy's birth rate - the lowest in Europe - and the economic implications of an ageing population. With the population forecast to fall significantly over the next 50 years, the late Pope, John Paul II, instructed Italians to "rediscover the culture of life and love and... their mission as parents".

Rome

Ancient Rome Half Day Tour PM
The tour starts with a panoramic view of the Colosseum from Colle Oppio before skipping the queue to enter the most symbolic of Rome's landmarks. An expert local guide will bring the bloody past of the amphitheatre to life as you listen to tales of gladiators, mock sea-battles and executions. You when then stop at the Arch of Constantine before entering the complex of the Palatine Hill - the most famous of Rome's hills. Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of the city, were said to have been found here by the she-wolf who nursed and raised them. The last stop of the tour is a walk along the "Via Sacra" inside the Roman Forum and the tour ends at the Temple, which houses the altar where Julius Caesar was cremated.

Imperial Rome and Colosseo
Arriving by coach at Piazza Venezia you then continue on foot to the famous Piazza Del Campidoglio designed by Michelangelo from where you will have a fantastic view of the Roman Forum. By coach we will then drive by the Circus Maximus and the Aventino Hill. Stop to admire the beautiful statue of Moses by Michelangelo located in the Church of St. Peter's in Chains from where it will take us 5 minutes to reach the symbol of the eternal city: The Colosseum (visit inside, the entrance fee is included). Due to seasonal opening times the itinerary may be altered without notice.

Naples - Pompeii
Leaving Rome in a southerly direction, we take the Highway of the Sun crossing the fertile Roman countryside . Approximately halfway along the highway, you will be able to see the Abbey of Montecassino, noted for the famous battle and complete destruction during the Second World War. Descending towards the port of Mergellina and following the coastal road, we arrive in the ancient fishing quarter of Santa Lucia and see the impressive Castel dell'Ovo (photo stop). The city tour continues crossing the historical centre to see Piazza del Plebiscito, the Royal Palace, the Gallery of Umberto I and the imposing Maschio Angioino. Upon leaving the city, we cross the fertile valley of Mount Vesuvius, before finally arriving at Pompeii, where we stop first for lunch. After that we will visit the excavations on foot with a local guide on an archaeological journey through the ancient city. In approx. 2 hours you will see some of what has been discovered in more than 1,700 years since Pompeii was covered by ashes during the eruption of Vesuvius in the year 79 AD. We can picture the everyday life of the Imperial Age and imagine the panic felt by the people in those last few minutes before the city was so disastrously buried. At the end of the visit to Pompeii we will return to the coach for a journey of approx. 3 hours back to Rome. During this excursion we will visit a coral and cameo factory where we will have the opportunity to admire and purchase items of this ancient craft.


Avoid the lengthy queues and explore one of the world's most extensive art collections with an expert local guide on this fascinating tour of the Vatican. Your guide will share the stories and secrets contained within the Museums' walls, pleasures originally meant for the exclusive enjoyment of the Pope. Experience Michelangelo's famous Creation of Adam with you own eyes as you explore the Sistine Chapel and wander Raphael's Rooms. After taking in the Museums, be humbled by the imposing beauty of Saint Peter's Basilica, where you will encounter another of Michelangelo's masterpieces, La Pieta'. For a fascinating finish, you will stop to admire the magnificent Saint Peter's Square, as your guide points out Bernini's ingenious use of optical illusion.

Florence

A day in San Gimignano,Siena and Chianti
Experience with this tour a wonderful day in the Tuscan countryside, admiring the most suggestive corners of Siena , San Gimignano, the Chianti area and try with us the unique flavor of local wines. Departing from Florence, our tour will start in Siena, where our local and expert guide will lead you through its steep medieval streets, admiring the splendid palaces until we will reach the Cathedral (interior), Palazzo Comunale (Municipal Building) and Piazza del Campo where the Palio race takes place every year. Then free time for lunch (excluded) and shopping. We'll continue with a stop in Monteriggioni, well known worldwide for its wine and its countryside of unrivalled charm, where woods alternate with vineyards and olive groves, in a landscape dotted with Romanesque churches, farmhouses, villas and castles. The visit will continue to San Gimignano, one of the most fascinating examples of medieval towns, declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco: you will have free time to discover the beautiful squares, buildings, churches and suggestive alleyways and to shop.Finally we'll stop in a farm house , where you'll taste some of the best Tuscan wines with a little snack of sliced cold meats, bruschetta’s, salami and cheese.

Best of Florence Walking Tour Including the Accademia and Duomo
Discover Florence's historic centre on this three hour walking tour including Ponte Vecchio, the imposing Duomo, elegant Uffizi Square, the renowned leather market and the Accademia Gallery with Michelangelo's David. From the Ponte Vecchio bridge you will be introduced to the fascinating history and traditions of Florence: rub the nose of the legendary boar, 'Il porcellino', to ensure a return to Florence and visit Piazza della Repubblica, once the Ancient Forum, now a popular meeting place for famous writers. Enter the Duomo, the astounding Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. We will pause to enjoy a delicious homemade Italian gelato. The tour concludes with skip the line entrance to the Accademia Gallery where you will marvel at Michelangelo's statues of the Slaves and his magnificent 17 foot marble masterpiece, the David.

Excursion to Pisa and visit of Leaning Tower
This enchanting excursion will take you through the unforgettable Tuscan countryside to the marvellous city of Pisa, known all over the world for its impressive monuments and for its prestigious University. A professional guided walking tour will take you to the Piazza dei Miracoli, where you will be able to admire the Leaning Tower (exterior), the Baptistery (exterior) and other important monuments. You will enjoy then an interior guided visit of the Cathedral, real masterpiece of Romanesque art, built between the 11th and 12th centuries. The guided tour will end by the magnificent Leaning Tower: climbing to its top by mounting its 294 steps rising up in a spiral, will be one of the most amazing experiences you can ever try. The tower is 55.86 m tall (183.27 ft) from the ground on the low side and 56.70 m tall (186.02 ft) on the high side, around 3.99 degrees leaning. The weak and unstable subsoil caused this unique phenomenon, contributing to create one of the wonders of the world.

Lucca & Pisa Full Day Excursion
Our trip will start from Florence and our first stop will be in Pisa, the city worldwide known for its Leaning Tower and for its architectonic masterpieces. Once arrived in Pisa our guide will lead you to the famous Miracles Square explaining the wonders of this square. You will admire The Leaning Tower (exterior), the Baptistery (exterior) and other beautiful monuments before entering inside the Cathedral (interior). At the end of the visit you will have free time for photos and for lunch ( not included) before departing for Lucca. In Lucca free time for a pleasant walk into the enchanting historical centre where you will have the chance to admire the Anfiteatro Square, the Guinigi Tower, San Martino Dome and the typical "antique dealers street". Before coming back to Florence we will stop in a winery in Lucca countryside for tasting wine and extra virgin olive oil of local production.

Venice

Half Day to Murano, Burano & Torcello
After sailing past the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, the Public Gardens, the tip of Sant'Elena and the famous Lido beach resort, the boat arrives in Murano, known throughout the world for its glass manufacturing industry. Here we stop for around 40 minutes to visit to one of the factories. The second stop is at the picturesque island of Burano, famous not only for its lace but also for the fishermen's houses painted in bright colours. The stop will last about 30 minutes. Then after a short cruise, we reach Torcello, the earliest centre of civilization in the estuary. Only the Cathedral with its magnificent mosaics and the church of Santa Fosca remain as testimony of its former glory. The stop will be for about 30 minutes then we return to St.Mark's Square. On 15th September 2013 Torcello Island is not included due to Regata.

Gondola Ride...the romantic waterways of Venice
A romantic 'promenade' by gondola that will take you along the canals of Venice. A fantastic opportunity to travel along Venice's waterways looking up at the fabulous mediaeval palaces that line these historic thoroughfares and down to see their shimmering reflections dancing on the surface of the water. This cruise through the city's most secluded waterways passing under small bridges will help you appreciate the special quality of this floating city.

Original Venice Walk with skip the line entrance to St. Marks' Basilica
Skip the queue at San Mark's Basilica! Visit St. Mark's Square and learn the history that lies behind the walls of its most famous landmarks: the Basilica, its Byzantine heritage, the Doge's Palace and its adjoining prisons, that retain true secrets to comprehend how a city built on swamps became one of the most enlightened cities of the western world, and learn how all of a sudden fate turned its back on her. Then leave the square to discover the 'real Venice', enter a labyrinth of narrow passageways and alleys where a magical city of meandering canals punctuated by delicate bridges awaits you. And through the sights and the historical narrations learn how illustrious Venetians, the likes of Casanova and Marco Polo, and more common citizens made this city of stone a vibrant and magical place. Discover how Venice is today and how it is to live in the most beautiful city in the world, though not the most practical!

 

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